2020 Getty Medal Goes to Alice Walton, Martin Puryear, Kwame Anthony Appiah

  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • /
  • February 26, 2020

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Left to right: Alice Walton, Martin Puryear, Kwame Anthony Appiah. Photo of Mr. Puryear by Francesca Bottazzin

The 2020 Getty Medal, the J. Paul Getty Trust’s highest honor, recognizing contributions to the arts and humanities, will be given to philanthropist Alice Walton, artist Martin Puryear, and scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah.

“The Getty Medal recognizes excellence and impact in cultural areas that help expand our understanding and appreciation of the world around us,” said David Lee, chair of the Getty Board of Trustees. “This year we are thrilled to honor three influential and transformative leaders.”

Philanthropist Alice Walton is dedicated to expanding access to the arts and arts education to communities throughout our nation. Martin Puryear is one of today’s most influential sculptors, with powerful work that expresses respect for and mastery of craft traditions from around the world. And through his innovative scholarship, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah deepens our understanding of identity and cosmopolitanism, helping to define what it means to be a citizen of the world.

The J. Paul Getty Medal, established in 2013, has previously been awarded to 14 distinguished individuals to honor their extraordinary contributions to the practice, understanding, and support of the arts and humanities. 

Ms. Walton founded the Crystal Bridges American Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2011. “Through her vast and generous philanthropy, Alice Walton has advanced our understanding and appreciation of American art, increased access to art in communities across the country, and emphasized the importance of diversity on museum boards,” said James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “Her work on behalf of both the arts and healthcare stems from her deep commitment to improving people’s lives.”

“I deeply appreciate the J. Paul Getty Trust’s acknowledgment of my work, and the work of my colleagues, as we help broaden understanding of and access to outstanding works of art,” said Ms. Walton. “This is a meaningful honor from an institution renowned for its dedication to the visual arts.”

Mr. Puryear’s sculpture has been recognized over 50 years for its abstract organic forms. “Martin Puryear’s powerful hand-crafted sculpture delves deeply into African American history while reflecting global influences in craft and material,” said Mr. Cuno. “His work combines traditional techniques with timeless cultural references. He inspires us every day with ‘That Profile,’ his towering work at the Getty Center.”

Said Mr. Puryear, “It is a great honor to join the list of distinguished artists who have received the Getty Medal.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah is a professor of law and philosophy at New York University and an ethics columnist for the New York Times Magazine. “Anthony Appiah’s writings on culture and identity are of the greatest importance as we confront increasing populism and ethnic nationalism in our daily lives,” said Mr. Cuno. “It is for this reason, and the intellectual elegance of his scholarship, that we are honored to bestow upon him the Getty’s highest honor.” 

“As a philosopher, I have always felt it a great privilege to be invited into conversations with those who sustain the arts,” said Professor Appiah. “The Getty Medal has established itself by the range and luster of its recipients and I am honored and humbled to join their company.”

The Getty Medal awards will be presented in September at the Morgan Library in New York City. Medalist nominations are reviewed and awardees determined by the J. Paul Getty Trust Board of Trustees.

Past recipients of the J. Paul Getty Medal include Mary Beard, Nancy Englander, Frank Gehry, Thelma Golden, Agnes Gund, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Yo-Yo Ma, Lord Jacob Rothschild, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Lorna Simpson, and Harold Williams.

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